Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Personal expression

Vast crowds in the Great Hall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 3:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, December 19, 2017. Yesterday in New York, six days before Christmas Eve, it was mostly cloudy, but not cold. Traffic was fairly light for this time of year. The social calendar is now on hiatus except for the scores of holiday cocktail parties going on in many an office, apartment,  restaurant.

I went down to Michael’s and had a reunion lunch with Carol Abrams with whom I worked twenty years ago at Avenue when Carol was the Advertising Director.  This is the first time we’ve seen each other since then. Never close friends but always on an eye-to-eye level of sensibility, we picked up right after we left off.

Paige Peterson, DPC, and Marianne and Steve Harrison outside Sette Mezzo.
Then last night Chris Meigher and his wife Grace and daughter Elizabeth hosted a small cocktail reception upstairs at East Pole on 65th Street off Lex. Present were the Quest staff as well as a number of friends of the Meighers.

Again, holiday time, where the camaraderie is light and pleasant. It’s one of the best parts of this time of year – the opportunity to spread and experience good cheer. It is to be coveted. I left the Meighers to keep a dinner date at Sette Mezzo with my old friends Marianne and Steve Harrison who arrived yesterday from Beaufort, South Carolina where they own the Rhett House Inn. We were joined by a not-as-old but still old friend Paige Peterson who works for the Huntsman Cancer Institute out in Utah.

Both Paige and Marianne, never having met, learned that they have had multiple cancer afflictions and had survived all. They talked about that, very matter-of-factly, and not morbidly, which made it interesting. We are all at that stage of life where we’ve come upon a new phase, not the same as, yet not unlike, adolescence. Although we never had such conversations in adolescence. At least not where we remained awake.

Sette Mezzo was its jumping self. Sherri and Ed Rollins were at the next table, although no one talked about politics. Or the Gropers, which here in New York, in media land, is getting to be a tired subject. We consume issues these days the same way we consume fast food, almost like a nervous habit.

Nevertheless, it was a beautiful evening, the food is always good, the conversation was constant and moving around and we were in the thick of the community pandemonium of dining. It’s one of the things I love about New York. People; lots and lots. Gives you much to think about; a pleasure in and of itself.

Click to order Havana Living Today.
Another perfect book for Santa’s shopping sack. Hermes Mallea is a Cuban-American architect, partners with decorator Carey Maloney in the New York design firm M(Group).  He’s been traveling to Havana since 2007 reporting on design, as well as lecturing and publishing on architecture and Cuban family life. Havana Living Today, just published by Rizzoli, in his third book on the subject.  
In his trips to Havana, he’s often come upon contemporarily stylish houses, “brimming with personality.”  This surprised him. He came to see that personal expression in the decoration of the home had not disappeared with the political upheavals – as many people believed.

Havana Living Today takes the reader on a tour of the city, into a world that tourists — and most Cubans — have never seen. A world hidden behind the poverty and battered facades of this socialist capital.  It is surprising. It seems almost unreal.  Hermes introduces a very small elite who make up the city’s most stylish homeowners — foreign diplomats, artists, musicians, collectors, expats  and members of the Old Guard who remained on the island.

These particular houses, Hermes believes, preserve the record of Havana on the verge of change — just as Raul Castro is set to retire.

In the book’s introduction, he describes the seizing of assets and expropriation of houses carried out by the Revolutionary government. His own family home in Northeast Cuba, where five generations of his clan had been born, was lost, seized.  This new book, he cautions is a design book celebrating the Cuban desire to create beauty and personal expression. There is no political angle here.
Artist’s Home Gallery: Dining Room
In Cuba, artists are an economic and cultural elite. In their home-galleries they welcome the  international art tourists who have been visiting for decades. The inventive décor of this artist’s Dining Room — mismatched chairs found on the street — exemplifies the Cuban approach of making the best of what you have available.
Mid-century apt Kitchen
The owner and her architect husband bought the apartment while the building was being constructed several years before the Revolution. They brought their children up here, surrounded by an eclectic mix of furniture & artwork created by their friends.
Mid-Century Suburban Living Room
The European couple who rents this mid-century home from the Cuban state have been renovating for 17 years, coordinating builder's crews & stockpiling materials as they become available. The décor of the space sums up Havana Style Today – a confident mix of mid-century Cuban furniture, contemporary art with a focus on indoor-outdoor living.
Mid-century Bedroom
The bedroom of an esteemed historic preservation architect showcases the authentic Havana style created just before the Revolution by Havana's architects who beautifully reconciled international style modernism with centuries of Cuban home-building traditions.
Artist's home: Dining Room
Recycling in Cuba is done as a matter of necessity. This painter recycled the historic finishes of his historic home, exposing the vintage wall paper, multi-colored plaster walls and woodwork. This striking décor appropriates the esthetic of decay we associate with Havana and makes it modern with contemporary paintings, vintage furniture & mid-century chandeliers.
A dining room in the home of Nora Belanzaurán and Otto Hermos.
A sweeping view in the modern home of Katharina Voss and Enrique Arias.

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